NEW DELHI: a year ago Shikha Pandei was unexpectedly dropped from the Indian squad and the return of pacer for the T20 World Cup the next month also came out of nowhere, leaving her “pleasantly surprised.”
The 33-year-old last played for India on the Australian tour in October 2021 and was an integral part of the squad before the ODI World Cup 2022 in New Zealand.
So being dropped from the team was a big setback, but the former Indian Air Force officer found solace in returning to domestic cricket where she excelled and grew closer to her teammates from Goa.
Time spent with the former Australia captain Belinda Clark Down Under has also contributed immensely to his comeback bid.
With coaches falling back on Shikha’s experience after testing a few youngsters, there will be added pressure to perform but she is up for the challenge.
“I try to take it one day at a time. Short-term goals help me a lot. There is always pressure to perform and I hope to be better equipped this time around.
“I did well in the domestic circuit this season and was happy with the way I was doing. I received very positive feedback from my Zonals coaches and my challengers. Yeah, I was pleasantly surprised,” the 33-year-old told PTI.
Shikha is at NCA Bengaluru with her Indian teammates and will depart for South Africa on January 11. The World Cup will be preceded by a tri-series involving India, the West Indies and South Africa, starting on January 19.
The experienced fast bowler worked her way into the Indian team after a stellar domestic season in which she notched 20 wickets in 16 matches at an average of 13.45.
Apart from the support of her family, Shikha said her Goa teammates helped her through the tough times.
“I’ve always loved coming back and playing for my state team. Even when I wasn’t on international duty, I would never miss an opportunity to play alongside my state teammates.
“I have close friends in the team and the bond just got stronger. We have some absolute superstars in the Goa side and I can’t wait for them to become big in the future.”
Without naming them, Shikha said she was in contact with a few Indian teammates during her absence from the national team.
A booming inswinger to clean up Australia’s opening Alyssa Healy on the 2021 tour was classed as the “prom of the summer” and Shikha is expected to land many of these inswingers in South Africa.
Getting the ball right-handed is Shikha’s greatest strength and she wants to maintain that consistency.
“I’ve worked hard to hit those lengths consistently and stay in the moment (over the past 12 months).”
Has her time on the sidelines made her a better cricketer and a better person?
“I’ve always believed that hard work doesn’t go to waste and the situations you find yourself in don’t define you, but the decisions you make to deal with them do.
“My family, my supporters, the coaches, support staff and administration of GCA and my state teammates. All of their help has been overwhelming (when I was not on the team),” added Shikha .



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